It’s not easy being a kid detective.
You can’t make a citizen’s arrest, you can’t beat up the villains, you can’t interrogate suspects. The usual cozy mystery detective’s posse of police, doctor, lawyer won’t talk to you unless they’re your parent. And you can’t even track bad guys if it’s after your bedtime.
When the bad guys catch, gag, and tie you up—and they will because they’re bigger, faster, can drive legally, and don’t have to get home in time to finish their homework—there’s only one thing you can do. (Well two things, if you forgot, again, to do one of them before you left home.) You can bang for attention. Surprisingly often, kid sleuths find themselves tied up and often gagged. Nancy Drew did it so often, it’s amazing her non-boyfriend Ned had time for college between rescues.
Of course, kid detectives do have a couple of advantages. The adults in their lives are oddly complacent about having children roam freely, follow criminals, and get into dangerous situations. The kids know a lot more about technology than almost all adults, they’re used to lying to grownups, and—especially if they’re younger siblings—they can sneak and snoop like nobody’s business. Plus, after that whole reveal regarding Santa and the Easter Bunny, they are naturally suspicious of anything adults tell them.
One of the most fun new additions to my favorite kid detectives is Amanda, Darlene Foster’s heroine of the Amanda Travels series. Please see my review below of Amanda’s newest adventure, Amanda in Malta.
Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady (An Amanda Travels Adventure Book 8) by Darlene Foster
Be prepared to learn a lot about the culture while you follow Amanda on her adventure.—Laura Best, author, Bitter, Sweet
What a great way for a young person to learn about a culture and to be inspired to experience other countries themselves.—Irene Butler, author, Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps
Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.
Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?
Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.
5 stars for Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady (An Amanda Travels Adventure Book 8) by Darlene Foster
As a genre, kid detectives have a long history. From the Bobbsey Twins and basically everything Enid Blyton ever wrote, to Swallows and Amazons, from the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, and even three young wizards who go away to magic school—young sleuths never cease to capture our imagination.
One of my favorite additions to their group is Amanda Ross, the twelve-year-old heroine of the Amanda Travels series. In her latest adventure, Amanda’s best friend Leah sends a mysterious letter begging Amanda to join her in Malta. “Something’s not right. Can you come ASAP?” Amanda is puzzled to receive a letter instead of email, worried that she has no way of replying, and dejected at being trapped in a Canadian winter. “Her mom was in a bad mood again. She always was during tax season. Amanda would rather die than be an accountant.”
Luckily, she receives an invitation from Caleb not-her-boyfriend Sorenson’s family to join them for a vacation on Malta. But when they arrive on Malta, Caleb and Amanda are unable to find Leah. They begin to realize that something dangerous is going on. As they investigate, the situation becomes darker by the minute. A national treasure, the tiny ancient sculpture of The Sleeping Lady, has been stolen. Leah and her aunt are somehow involved, and clearly in danger.
As the children investigate, we join them in exploring the treasures and unexpected surprises of Malta. True to their genre, they outwit bad guys, protect endangered animals, and hide in really tiny spaces. And of course, there’s the time-honored kid detective trope when a bound and gagged Leah must bang for a rescue.
But like the mom who sneaks vegetables into the pizza, this series has another secret weapon. Geography—surely one of the least popular subjects in any middle school classroom—takes a starring role in Amanda’s adventures. We see both the gorgeous coast and fishing villages, learn about history, meet some of the people, and even discover wonderful food and quirky local features such as a movie set from the Popeye movie which is now a theme park, or an entire cafe for homeless cats.
The nonstop action, danger, daring rescue, and humorous banter between Amanda, Caleb, and Leah all make this adventure fast-paced and a huge amount of fun. But what is also remarkable is the way the main characters’ flaws play as big a part as their bravery. Caleb’s fish phobia, Amanda’s fear of heights, and Leah’s decision not to reveal her knowledge of the crime in order to protect her aunt are all fully but sympathetically revealed.
If you know any middle school readers who enjoy adventure, mystery-solving, bravery, and humor, I would not hesitate to recommend any of the books of this wonderful series.